taiwan series: shiyang culture restaurant

lucky for me, hhh's parents love to eat as much as we do. they are also weirdly knowledgeable about all the best restaurants, so when they suggested that we go to shi-yang culture restaurant during our last trip to taiwan, we didn't say no. the tea house and restaurant are deep in the mountains (or maybe it just felt like that because the car had to scrape alongside jungle-y brambles to reach our destination). as we approached, we saw a man at the road's fork, who gestured for us to wait while another car edged up the tiny path. 

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we made it to the pebbled lot, and then ventured the rest of the way on foot. in taiwan, nature is overwhelming and unkempt - anything will grow, anywhere, all the time. (and it doesn't just go for flora but fauna too, especially the tiny pest varieties...i will forever be scarred by the flying cockroaches of my childhood.) it's hard to imagine the amount of effort that must go into landscaping maintenance in taiwanese cities to keep the greenery from conquering every unpaved surface. at shi-yang, though, the wildness is allowed, and the buildings co-exist peacefully with plant life. although the restaurant has only been at this location a couple of years, it looks as if it's been here for decades. (a consequence of taiwan's aggressive humidity: anything manmade starts to show age the minute it goes up.)

the wooden walkway along the event space.

the wooden walkway along the event space.

the food was delicious and creative, and the space was gorgeously simple. it made me think that maybe mountain life wouldn't be so bad. there are several wooden structures on both sides of a bubbling mountain brook (so idyllic!), and a bridge that spanned the water. all the rooms are lined with tatami mats and set with low tables. there is one large building that looked as if it could host parties, which also housed a plum blossom arrangement that i desperately wished was in my apartment.

i mean, look at that. i bet you wish you owned it too. 

i mean, look at that. i bet you wish you owned it too. 

another angle of the same lovely arrangement.

another angle of the same lovely arrangement.

it's definitely worth going at least half an hour before your reservation (which you will need in order to eat) so you can walk the grounds. i obsessively took photos of all the plants i dreamed about putting in my yard, even though i had no way of then figuring out what they were at the time. good thing i just discovered this amazing app called garden compass, which will identify plants for you via email. from the description in itunes, it actually sounds like a real live plant expert looks at the photo and writes you back. you get 20 IDs a month - not just of plants but also plant diseases (so if your houseplant seems to be floundering, you can ask the app what ails it!). i already tried it out with two plant IDs, and so far so good. 

i would die to get a fern that big to grow in my yard. but somehow i don't think this guy would enjoy northeastern winters very much...

i would die to get a fern that big to grow in my yard. but somehow i don't think this guy would enjoy northeastern winters very much...

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anyway, it was super exciting to discover this spot. i get the feeling it's pretty special. now you should go, and then tell me how you like it. xoxo

taiwan series: taipei's huashan 1914 creative park

although i go to taiwan every year, i tend to return to the same places over and over again. on the last couple of visits, though, i've been attempting to make an effort to see more of the new taiwan that the tourism board has been trying so hard to promote. (i love the adorable graphics of their campaign! see more here.) a couple of days ago, cathay sent me a link to taipei bookstores from the lse review of books, which reminded me that i've been meaning to post a mini-guide series to taiwan. i'll start with places to see in the capital. first up: huashan 1914 creative park.  

a poster from the current tourism campaign, seen at Taoyuan International Airport (TPE).

a poster from the current tourism campaign, seen at Taoyuan International Airport (TPE).

a major initiative of taiwan's public-private tourism expansion projects has been to turn abandoned state-owned factory spaces into "creative parks," which include gallery space, event venues, restaurants, and shops. there is also a strong focus on taiwan-made objects and design, as well as locally-produced foods. 

remnants of the factory's old self.

remnants of the factory's old self.

this green appears a lot on painted metal in taiwan.

this green appears a lot on painted metal in taiwan.

the first of these was huashan 1914 creative park, which was one of Taiwan's largest distilleries in a former life. as the story goes, a troupe of stage actors began repurposing the factory in the late 1990s: they held performances and used the cavernous spaces to experiment with their craft, and other artsy types soon followed suit. this called attention to the fact that they were occupying the state-owned space illegally--but then an ngo was created to manage the transformation of the factory into a full-on arts center. i don't know the inside story, but it seems to have been a good thing. in the last five or six years, there have been several other creative parks launched in different taiwanese cities. since 2007, i've visited huashan four or five times, and each time, there is more to see (and buy).  

red envelopes in felted wool. people  love  these. 

red envelopes in felted wool. people love these. 

tiny replicas of traditional taiwanese doors that remind me of the ones at my grandparents' house.

tiny replicas of traditional taiwanese doors that remind me of the ones at my grandparents' house.

i didn't get any photos of the interiors the last time i was there...so i'll plan another visit and post an update here when i do. you can see more here

an exterior shot from the street.

an exterior shot from the street.

the straps keep the house from blowing away during a typhoon. just kidding. i think this is art.

the straps keep the house from blowing away during a typhoon. just kidding. i think this is art.

in the next few weeks, i'll cover the taipei spots worth spending a bit more time in, and then a roundup with a map and addresses. 'til next time.